“Is a Calorie a Calorie?” Part I: Sugar, Simple Carbs, and Insulin

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Is a calorie a calorie?

Ask any health or fitness professional and the answer is usually a resounding “YES.”

That’s because of the first Law of Thermodynamics (conservation of energy) is stated as a concrete fact as it pertains to the human body’s use of calories from food for energy, and it’s as simple as CALORIES IN EQUALS CALORIES OUT.

In case you’re unfamiliar to the Law of Conservation of Energy, it states that “energy cannot be created nor destroyed just transformed or transferred in some way, in a closed system.”

As an equation, it can be stated as: U = Q – W.

“U” is the internal energy of the system (or body-weight), “Q” is the heat supplied by the system (the calories eaten in a day) and “W” is the work done by the system (the calories burned by your body for any given action or metabolic processes in a day).

In other words, a calorie is a calorie in our system (our bodies) and will always equal the same no matter what. For instance, if your diet consisted of 1500 calories from all simple carbs and sugar sources, like bread, potato chips, cookies, candies, etc., it would EQUAL THE SAME CALORIES AND CAUSE THE SAME EFFECT from a balanced diet of meats, veggies, good fats, and slow digesting carbs.

Using the first Law of Thermodynamics this statement is true. It doesn’t matter what food you eat as long as you’re eating the right amount of calories to either gain, lose, or maintain your body weight for a given energy expenditure. In other words, the classic saying “Calories in equals calories out” remains true based on the first Law of Thermodynamics.

Weight-gain is, essentially, the result of poor behaviors and ultimately down to “personal choice.”

On the surface, this makes complete sense, but recently there has been new evidence challenging this statement.

For instance…

What if the first Law of Thermodynamics did not fit our diet completely? What if our biological chemistry firstly dictates how the calories we consume interact with our bodies based on our current physiology, resulting in different ways certain macronutrients are processed, or expressed, in our body system?

This, I think, is a question that should be further investigated because, as a population, more people are overweight now, yet we’ve heard for years that it’s as simple as cutting your calories and exercising more.

Don’t you think if it was that easy that more of us would be in shape?

Just food for thought (pun intended).

And do not get me wrong…

I understand that this calorie balance is the first step in any weight-loss endeavor. The majority of Americans sit for longer periods of time more than ever today, and have access to an abundance of food at their fingertips. Put that together and it’s no mystery that we’re so fat.

BUT, IS THAT IT?

Is there nothing more going on in this story of obesity and being overweight?

I can’t say for sure that there is or not, but given the circumstances, I think there must be more to the story then just to say, “people are lazy, cheetoh hungry slobs that just don’t care.”

I believe that may be true to a degree, BUT I think the majority of people who are overweight DO CARE about  losing weight and TRY, but do not get very far because the story of calories in equals calories out is incomplete.

Many lose some weight in the beginning with more exercise and calorie reduction in their diet, but soon after that progress stops and they are left discouraged after weeks of no progress. No matter what they try they just cannot seem to lose the weight.

Working with clients myself as a trainer, I’ve come to understand that people are complicated, and saying they should stick to the current dogma is losing credibility and traction because, quite frankly, it’s not really working anymore in TODAY’S DIET. It is failing and, hence, must be investigated.

Keeping it as simple as CALORIES IN = CALORIES OUT seems to not tell the full story in my book.

Let’s dig deeper.

How are (Simple) Carbs Used by the Body

To first understand the energy equation we must first understand how energy (Calories from food) is used and processed by the body.

To make things simple, watch the video below.

I think the video above does a great job at explaining how sugar metabolism takes place in the body and what exactly is going on. Since sugar is so abundant in our food supply today, it makes it extremely difficult to limit your intake of it, allowing excess sugar consumption to be the norm. Foods you think would not have sugar, like meat, crackers, and chips, have them. That’s why I’m always an advocate of checking the food label and making sure, first-hand, there is no question about it.

But, aren’t we told that we need carbohydrates for energy? That’s what the food pyramid tells us, right?

That is true, yes, but the food pyramid is outdated and has barely changed with the times.

The food pyramid tells us that the base — the majority of our calories — should be from carbs, including pastas, grains, and flours. If you want to become a bodybuilder or an offensive lineman then sure, that might be a good option for you. You can do that. BUT, since most of us don’t need to be 250 to 300 pounds for a job that’s probably not the best option to go with.

What we need is more balance in our diet from whole-food sources.

I’m not saying going ketogenic and cutting carbs altogether. No. But, just making simple changes by consuming more complex carbs (increasing fiber) and less simple ones (devoid of fiber) is a good start to balance blood sugar (insulin). Throw in good protein and fat sources, like quality chicken, fish, avocados, meat, and nuts, and you have a much better combination to lose weight and be healthier, with daily exercise activity added in.

If not, then the chance of flooding your body with simple carbs is high (the highly processed “American Diet”). This causes a tidal wave of INSULIN as a response, contributing to METABOLIC SYNDROME (insulin resistance) over-time, and, eventually, Type II Diabetes and other health defects.

Metabolic Syndrome and Weight

METABOLIC SYNDROME is a name given to refer to abnormal functions of your biochemistry that dictate bodily functions and processes. By definition, if you have three or more of the following criteria, you have metabolic syndrome:

  • Abdominal obesity (Waist circumference of greater than 40 inches in men, and greater than 35 inches in women)
  • Triglyceride level of 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or greater
  • HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women
  • Systolic blood pressure (top number) of 130 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater, or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 85 mm Hg or greater
  • Fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater

(Source: American Heart Association)

Metabolic syndrome is so BAD because it puts you at a much higher risk of developing chronic diseases, like heart disease, Type II diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, stroke, heart attack, and so forth. All of these share one things in commoninsulin resistance or abnormally high blood sugar levels. One of the main contributors to this is the abundance of SUGAR and SIMPLE CARBS in the diet. These two become such a HUGE problem because many often consume them in excess, leading to metabolic syndrome to manifest itself (weight-gain, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and high blood sugar turning into insulin resistance).

It’s because our body cannot process simple carbs and sugars in abundance, like how we eat them. It’s just doesn’t work. The body does it’s best and stores it as fat because it has nowhere else to put the remaining glucose it breaks down from the many simple carbs that are ingested.

This causes lots of visceral fat (fat around your organs) leading to dangerous health effects deteriorating our health.

If you have read doctor Robert Lustig’s book, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Chronic Disease, then you will also be familiar that obesity (what simple sugars invariably cause over-time if not kept in check) is a symptom of metabolic syndrome from a hormonal imbalance, or malfunction, in which leptin (the hormone that tells us we’re full) does not reach the hypothalamus (the command center of our appetite and how our digestive system functions) due to excess insulin being released by the body to handle the simple carbs and sugars. This causes our bodies to go in “STARVATION” mode causing much of the food we consume put towards FAT.

This explains those individuals who severely restrict their calories and exercise more do not get much anywhere because our hormones and body-chemistry will not let us use our “fat stores” for energy. If they have any success it is typically short lived, and they often gain the weight back with any change in calories and reduction in exercise once they do.

Thus, you must stop and reverse any high blood sugar (insulin) levels FIRST and then you can tackle weight-loss.

High and consistent insulin levels means you can’t burn FAT!

STOP HIGH INSULIN.

Making the Change to Reduce Insulin

Reducing insulin levels and making sure they remain more consistent is hard, but doable.

Yes, I understand that your habits and lifestyle play a part in that, because a diet is temporary and habits, and/or a lifestyle, are potentially life long. I’m an advocate of this, and agree 100% that you need a healthy lifestyle (like a well-balanced diet and much exercise/physical activity performed daily). That said, however, it is not the one-all be-all solution to how simple carbs, and food in general, affect us.

There are so many different moving parts to what’s going on that simplifying weight-gain to The First Law is a discredit to everyone who is over-weight. Essentially, you’re saying they want to be fat and overweight and they are just soft. Maybe to a degree, but often times they just don’t know what to do.

Believe it or not they are the majority now, or at least will be very soon, and I doubt that was their goal — TO BE FAT.

NO WAY.

No one wants to have a higher chance of dying sooner, and developing chronic illnesses and disease that deteriorate their quality of life on a day-to-day basis where they can’t function, while straining their personal life and pocket at the same time. This causes a harsh decline in self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy, which make their life miserable

I was there myself and lost the 100 pounds and I’ve kept it off for 6 years now. I’m the extreme minority when it comes to weight-loss, so I know what the HELL I’M TALKING ABOUT.

What helped me was a curiosity to figure this weight-loss process. To feel better day-to-day and not have nagging minor ailments (acne, brain fog, lethargy, poor self confidence, to name a few), added up together, to make me miserable. And that is what I was — miserable.

I refused to be fat and that is what opened my eyes to seeking alternative solutions to the weight-loss problem. Eating better and exercising more helped me right away — absolutely. I have not said and will never say it does not. What I am saying is that to lose “all the weight you want” you have to think of diet as just “NOT A DIET.” It is a different way of thinking and living that you have to accept.

Essentially, changing your biochemistry for the better through particular environmental changes.

That is what has helped me.

This is what will help PEOPLE solve THEIR insulin equation, which will help those that seem to can’t lose any fat or weight to lose it and keep it off. Ultimately, that is what really counts — keeping the weight off.

Stay tuned for Part II where I will discuss methods, procedures, and plans to change your physical and physiological environment for the better to lose the weight.

As always, thanks for stopping by and subscribe if not already.

Please leave your comments down below because this is such an important topic.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

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I’ve Gone Ketoenic! Part I: Days 1-3

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I’ve gone Ketogenic!

Yes, the high fat diet to ironically burn fat!

Or, at least, as Keto supporters claim.

Over the past few weeks I have slowly been transitioning. First, at tightening my fasting and eating windows (16 hours fasting and an 8 hour eating window), while simultaneously slowly decreasing my daily carbohydrate intake. Finally, this past Thursday (August 10, 2017), I made the switch to a full Ketogenic diet and I am now on the fourth day (August 13, 2017).

For a lot of people, a ketogenic diet means different specific macronutrient splits. For me, I consider Keto the following macro splits of your total daily caloric intake:

  • Fats = 70-75%
  • Protein = 20-25%
  • Carbs = 5-10%

Sure, some claim to eat as much as 80% plus of fats with 15% protein, and <5% carbs. Regardless, Keto is high fat, and ultra low carb (30 to 50 grams a day, sometimes up to a 100, depending on the person).

Over the past weeks, I have done tons of research, including: listening to podcasts with Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, scouring the web with contrasting sources on what’s generally good and bad, what is allowed and what is not, how to best workout on a keto diet, and tips to avoid the “Keto Flu”. I have done this in an effort to experience a new way of dieting, lose excess body-fat — I’M STARTING THIS AT 183.5LBS AT ~13.5% BF — while serving as a guinea pig for my clients and anybody else who seeks weight and fat-loss.

So far, so good.

I’ll sum up my first 3 days below.

Keto Day 1

My first day of Keto actually felt great!

My first and last meal of the day were the same and I had the first one around 11:30 A.M. after a ~15 hour fast. Below is the breakdown:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 turkey sausage
  • A few cups of sauteed onions, peppers, and mushrooms, cooked in Kerrygold grass-fed butter
  • A large handful of mixed greens with some organic white cheddar cheese and no sugar balsamic vinaigrette
  • A dollop of chipotle mayonnaise.

Below is the macro summary using my FitBit app.

As you can see, quite a bit of calories.

After my meal, I did some work and then headed to the gym to get my workout in. My first workout on keto did not feel too bad. I actually felt pretty good! Luckily, it was my de-load week, which suits the diet transition, since it’ll take some time to adapt to it.

Of course, I’m sure I was going through my glycogen stores, since my type of workouts (powerlifting and HIIT). Either way, felt good, especially after.

What was striking to me was the mental clarity after my workout. It was something that I haven’t experienced in a long time. There was no mental fog that I often experience, and my mood and mental focus were greatly enhanced. I almost got high on the feeling, in fact.

This is something that has been consistent starting out — my energy levels.

At this point, I’m excited, but trying not to go overboard (as you will see).

Below are my total macros for Keto Day 1:

Day 2 of Keto

Day 2 was much different than my first day on keto.

First off, my sleep wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I had to wake up a couple times to pee, and that decreased the quality of sleep because I had trouble falling back asleep (I rarely wake up sleeping).

I woke up (around 6:00 A.M.), had a client in the morning, and then had my training after (around 8:30 A.M.). Going into my workout I made sure to take my SODIUM, MAGNESIUM, AND POTASSIUM electrolyte supplement beforehand, and decided to have my pre-workout (0 carbs, 0 sugar) and BCAA supplement (0 carbs, 0 sugar).

Yes, I know that there are many debating thoughts regarding whether or not BCAAs can kick you out of ketosis, in addition to some artificial sweeteners (like ace-K, and sucralose). I didn’t get a full consensus that it would kick you out (the fear it might raise insulin levels), so I decided to take it anyway. What the hell, right!?

I felt okay, especially considering I didn’t get the greatest sleep, and felt confident to lift heavy that day, despite it being my de-load week. I did squats and went all the way up to 385, my current max. I didn’t get it, needed a spot, but I consider that mainly psychological since I kind of psyched myself out.

That was most of my workout, in addition to a rehab shoulder routine I did for my right shoulder complex (dealing with some AC joint trouble).

After, I had a similar meal the day before, but with turkey meat and eggs (2 of my meals).

For my final meal I had broccoli and cauliflower grilled in a pan with salt and butter.

Below are my final macros for the day:

That wraps up day 2.

 

Keto Day 3

Day 3 of Keto was up and down.

First, a little down (possibly some “Keto Flu” symptoms), and then better as the day went on, with more consistent energy levels.

I did not workout this day, so I did not eat as many macros as I did the past 2 days.

Below are my ending macro splits (I ate the same meals from day 1, but I added a different type of sausage and some avocado).

3 Day Summary

My first 3 days on Keto were solid, in opinion.

Nothing extraordinary yet, but I’m not feeling terrible, like I’ve read and heard many people say. Today is day four and it’s going okay. Could have been better because I did not eat right after my morning workout (fasted), but okay nonetheless.

My muscles feel “deflated”, but things are tightening at the same time, especially the waist. I like this feeling, but the most important thing for me is to keep my powerlifting and overall fitness performance high. I love HIIT and powerlifting and, as far as what I’ve studied, it’s hard to perform these activities while on a keto diet (because your body prefers glucose). This is MOST important because I want to optimize my performance and keep/add my strength. Hard I know, but I’ll be pushing it at the same time and trying to maximize my recovery potential.

We will see, but I’m just taking this day-by-day and experimenting like everyone who first starts to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

If you have any questions or have some advice please let me know in the comments below!!!

Stay tuned for my next post as I finish my first week.

Until next time, be strong and be you!

(Photo Credit)

Thoughts on Gains: Vertical Dieting

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If you’re into lifting and don’t know who Stan Efferding is then shame on you!

(Click HERE to learn more about the White Rhino and visit his YouTube page HERE).

If you do then I’m sure you have heard him talk about his diet routine when he was competing in powerlifting and bodybuilding, especially when training with Flex Wheeler.

Listen to him enough, and you might hear him say something called “VERTICAL DIET.”

When I heard Stan say and describe this diet philosophy I got excited. The reason is  because that is exactly how I structure my own diet!

I was shocked, and excited to know that I follow the same diet philosophy as Stan. This made me say “I must be doing something right.”

Jokes aside, once Stan started to break down and share some thoughts on vertical dieting it all clicked for me. I realized that I was doing something that was maximizing the hard work I put in to the gym. This made me happy and excited to share the idea with everyone listening.

If you listen to the latest Juggernaut Training Systems (JTS) podcast with Stan (click HERE to watch on YouTube) he goes over this in more detail. He shares this was the diet he was on when he broke his records in powerlifting that helped him achieve a 2,303 total in his 40’s. Crazy.

Regardless, Stan is planning on releasing an eBook on vertical dieting in the future, but, in the meantime, I’ll break it down for you here in my own words, with my thoughts on the diet.

What is Vertical Dieting?

Vertical dieting is having a narrow selection of foods for carbs, fats, and protein that aim to maximize the nutrient density of what you are eating .

For instance, instead of having a wide spectrum of different foods on a daily and weekly basis, instead, you would have a small group of foods with a high nutrient density that constitute each macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fats).

For carbs, you may have rice, sweet potatoes, and oats. Protein, might be chicken, eggs, and steak. Fats might be avocado, coconut oil, and almonds. Throw in a select group of vegetables and fruits and you are set.

The purpose of a vertical diet is to BUILD EFFICIENCY.

Eating a narrow range of foods for each macronutrient allows this to happen because you train your body’s digestive system to be efficient at breaking down those foods, and getting the maximum nutrient absorption from it. This, in theory, causes less stress on your digestive system because it is not dealing with a diverse range of foods to digest, which may decrease the likelihood of inflammation in the gut.

This, over time, leads to less time the food is in your digestive system overall, which promotes greater meal frequency, less bloating in the gut, and enhances the chances you can use the actual nutrients from the foods you eat to their fullest potential when eaten.

Again, efficiency that leads to greater results from the nutrients consumed.

Concerns With Vertical Dieting

The largest concern with vertical dieting is whether or not you are getting the adequate micronutrients that your body needs, like vitamins and minerals.

Short answer is that you are.

This is my opinion, at least.

Vertical dieting may seem counter intuitive to one of the most popular notions in dieting — “eating a wide and diverse range of food to cover all the nutrients that your body needs” — but the vertical diet philosophy satisfies this. It’s because it is all about building efficiency at breaking down the foods you consume and the nutrients they hold. If you eat dense foods on this diet, which is recommended, then you should have no problem.

For example, if you pick carb sources that lack nutrient density, such as white bread and pasta, then you may have a problem with certain B-vitamins and fiber. However, if you pick brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, and/or maybe quinoa as your primary sources of carbs then you are eating nutrient rich foods that provide you with plenty of micronutrients and fiber that your body demands. As a result, eating a select 2 or 3 dense sources of carbs, or any macronutrient, will give you a high return on your investment (ROI) for the food you eat.

This aids in the recovery process after hard workouts, so your muscles and surrounding tissues get the nutrients they need to repair and grow back stronger, faster, resulting in muscle hypertrophy and strength gains.

Another concern with vertical dieting is that it gets boring, and thus, not sustainable long-term.

This may be true to an extent, but if your goal is truly to maximize your muscle and strength gains then it is something that you will just have to get over.

Also, you can mix and match your food, add spices, and cook your food in different ways that make it more appetizing.

Finally, I believe the 80/20 rule applies to the vertical diet, like many other diets. For example, if 80% of the foods you eat are the foods within your vertical diet, then you can leave the last 20% to eat different types of food. This does not mean you binge on McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme over the weekend, but it means you might have something different than what’s on the menu most days.

This way you are still getting much of the benefits of vertical dieting, yet adding some flavor to your diet and breaking up some of the monotony.

Conclusion

Like with any diet, vertical dieting aims at giving you results. For this diet, in particular, it will help you have less decision fatigue of foods to eat. This makes preparing your food easier, which lessens the probability of eating out or choosing poor quality foods.

The vertical diet will also allow you to improve your digestive system’s efficiency at breaking down food, making it easier, over time, to absorb the nutrients found in the foods that you are eating in this diet philosophy. This will aid you in your recovery efforts after hard workouts by having greater ability to assimilate the nutrients found in the foods that you are eating. Thus, improving the likelihood for more gains.

Through this and improvements in increasing your ability to meat your meal frequency goals, along with decreasing your chances for bloating and inflammation in the gut, makes it worth trying.

If you doubt this philosophy I encourage you to give it a try because it easily fits any style of diet, such as paleo, keto, slow-carb, vegan, 33/33/33, etc. It is because the vertical diet allows you to pick and choose the best foods for you in each diet type giving you the ability to satisfy those requirements. This makes it sustainable for you while receiving the benefits of a vertical diet, as opposed to a horizontal one that allows you to eat anything in sight.

Leave me a comment down below and tell me what you think about this, and what it means for your diet.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

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Success Factors for Fitness and Health: Free Download

Hey everyone!!

I’m excited to announce that I’m offering my health guide, Success Factors of Health, as FREE to DOWNLOAD for anyone looking to improve their health and performance, both inside and out of the gym.

In the guide, you will find the four success factors you need to optimize daily to better achieve the health and fitness you are looking to reach.

They are simple, yet difficult in practice to accomplish, so I’ll go in detail through each one and present facts about each factor, and methods to better achieve reaching each one adequately.

To download my SUCCESS FACTORS of HEALTH guide, click HERE.

As always, thank you for stopping by, and if not a subscriber please subscribe.

Until next time be strong and be you!

Best,

Cody

Should You Workout Fasted…MY EXPERIENCE

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Working out or training fasted.

  • Does it work for fat lost?
  • Does it hinder your strength and burn your muscle?
  • Is it even safe?

I’m sure if you’ve been working out for awhile you have probably heard some talk regarding this subject and these questions.

With that said, I am not here to present a body of evidence for or against fasted exercise, although I do advocate it. All I will do is give you my honest experience training fasted, and the results from it, giving you a new perspective allowing you to determine whether or not it is worth trying for you.

Yes, my experience is anecdotal evidence, but that does not make it useless.

At one time, or another, everything that has been studied in the fitness arena has been anecdotal. That’s why there are studies because someone says this or that works and it is then studied. That said, use my experience for what it’s worth: my experience.

My Fasted Training

Over the last 4 years, I have worked out in a fasted state regularly.

What exactly is considered a fasted state?

To me, fasting is not eating anything for 8 hours or more.

For example, if you stopped eating at 9:00pm and had breakfast the next day at 7:00am, then you would have fasted for 10 hours.

With that said, I have trained fasted for as much as 3 to 4 times per week (currently, I am training twice a week fasted) for approximately the last 4 years. These fasted workouts are the same type of workouts I do if I wasn’t fasting. I’m lifting heavy weights, pushing myself as hard as I can, and not going light.

What has my experience been like?

It’s been great.

How do I measure that?

I measure that based on my level of strength week-to-week, my body composition (weight and body fat percentage), and just how I feel overall the rest of the day compared to other days I do not work out fasted.

I know some of that measure is subjective, but measure nonetheless. During my time training fasted, I’ve kept my level of strength, improved it, and increased my lean muscle mass, as well as endurance.

How do I do I train fasted?

Typically, the night before I exercise fasted, I stop eating anywhere from 8 to 10pm, based upon my current schedule. I typically wake around 7am, and arrive at the gym from 8:30 to 9am. Between that time, I hydrate as soon as I wake by drinking lots of water, usually 32 to 50 ounces, and do some light stretching and mobility exercises before the gym. Next, I drink a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) supplement before I leave.

Once I arrive to the gym, I do my warm-up routine and start my workout. During my workout, I’ll drink plenty of fluids and take more BCAAs to keep going hard until the end. After my workout, I might take more BCAAs or, finally, break my fast and eat a protein bar or my post workout meal (it all depends).

Importance of BCAAs

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Now, let me explain to you why I take BCAAs while training fasted.

I’m sure many of you have your own opinion on them, but I do believe they are a supplement worth taking, especially if you are going to work out fasted.

BCAAs are the amino acids that first break down when you start to workout once your muscle begins to break down. They are leucine, isoleucine, and valine, and are essential amino acids. This means they must be obtained through the diet (virtually in all major sources of protein, like any meat, eggs, etc.) and/or supplementation. BCAAs have been heavily studied and have shown to have positive influence on protein synthesis, adding lean muscle mass, and in some instances fighting fatigue during a workout.

(Click HERE  and HERE to learn more about BCAAs and studies on them).

From working out fasted and not taking them, to working out fasted and taking them, I do 100% feel a difference.

For example, if I do not take them I notice that I cannot train with as much as intensity. I feel weaker, have less endurance, and do not get as good of a pump if I skip out on them while training fasted. In contrast, when I take them fasted and workout I feel much more alive, energetic, my endurance and strength are at expected levels, and I get a better pump. A noticeable difference.

How do I know?

Lots of experimentation with myself.

Keyword: MYSELF.

This is what works out for me, and taking BCAAs helps me maximize my fasted workouts. I cannot feel weak and not get the work in that I need to, especially if I am going to lift heavy. I do not want any excuses holding me back. I have repeatedly got new PRs training fasted, and BCAAs are a critical factor in that.

The video below is me hitting a new all-time squat PR last week at 385 pounds around 188 pounds body weight (and beltless!).

The squat felt great, even though I had to grind it out. No issues with my back, and all while training fasted with BCAAs.

Fasted Training Benefits

The reason why I train fasted are many, but below are the main reasons why:

  • I want to stimulate fat loss.
  • I want to challenge my body to perform at different times.
  • It is more convenient for me.
  • I think it helps increase glucose sensitivity, and elevate testosterone and growth hormone production.
  • It helps boosts my metabolism, and maintain a healthy weight for me.

(Click HERE to learn more about fasted training benefits and how to start, and HERE for an interesting insulin study comparing fasted and non-fasted workouts).

For me, all these benefits are great, and the number one reason why I do fasted workouts is to help stimulate fat-loss and control my weight. The difference is astounding to me, and I love it. I feel leaner afterwards, and I notice that I can keep my weight under control a lot more when I do consistent fasted workouts.

The one thing you and I must do, however, is keep your fasted workouts and the routine you do to prepare for them consistent.

This way, I think, you will have more success in maximizing the benefits of training fasted, while progressing like you want during your training.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your experience with fasted workouts, I suggest you re-evaluate your thoughts and give it a shot.

Again, the worst thing you could do is be scared of training fasted. Keep your preparation routines consistent, and prioritize and/or schedule your days to where it fits your calendar. For example, trying intermittent fasting (or feasting, depending how you look at it) will aid in your pursuit of training fasted.

Is it a one-all solution to exponentially improve muscle building, strength, endurance, etc.?

No, but I DO THINK you can feel a significant and positive difference if you do it right.

That is why I highly recommend giving it a shot. It may feel draining at first, but if you make sure to hydrate, take a solid BCAA supplement (I take a brand called Scviation), and do it earlyish in the morning, I think you will really come to like it.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading. If it calls you please comment down below, and if not a subscriber please subscribe.

Until next time, be strong and be you!

(Photo Credit: Main photo)

(Photo Credit: BCAA)

Free Strength and Muscle Building Program and an Outline to Smash Your Strength Goals

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In the past 6 months, I have really tried to be much more methodical and organized in my approach to get stronger and lift more weight.

Before then, all I really tried to do was lift heavy with no particular approach, and was haphazardly moving from one programming style, like 5×5 or 5-3-1, to the next, and hoping to hit a goal in any one of the big lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press). It had some good results for awhile, but I noticed that I was hitting plateaus like crazy, and finding it hard to get stronger, despite battling injuries for the past few years.

As a result, I figured there had to be a better way, so I really sat down and started to program things, and developed my own basic approach after trying different ways of lifting, and actually sticking with it.

Following my own program, I hit new PRs in the back squat, strict overhead press, sumo deadlift (I do sumo the majority of the time because of my back), and incline bench press totaling over 130 pounds in six months. I added 40 pounds to my back squat, 30 pounds for my strict overhead press, 40 pounds to my sumo deadlift, and 20 pounds to my incline bench press (I typically like to do incline more than flat, based on preference and passed injuries).

These are the before and after numbers:

Progress on Lean Muscle Building Programming

Lift

Start Finish

Total Increase

1.    Squat (beltless)

315

355

40

2.    Sumo Deadlift (beltless)

405

445

40

3.   Incline Bench Press (beltless)

255

275

20

4.    Strict Overhead Press (beltless)

155

185

30

Max Totals

1130

1260

130

Weight (in pounds) 182 188
Body Fat % 14.00 13.50
Time Frame: August 2016 to January 2017

In addition, I added about 6 to 8 pounds of muscle to my frame (started at ~182lbs an now I’m ~188lbs), and dropped one-half percent of body fat, from 14.0% to 13.5%.

I know these results sound absurd — to a degree they are — but let me provide you context about me, regarding my lifting career, and past injuries to evaluate this progress, from August 2016 to present:

  • I first lifted a barbell when my Dad bought me a bench and weight set at 14 years old.
  • I started doing all of the “Big 3” lifts (back squat, deadlift, and bench press) when I was 17 because I wanted to play football my senior year of high school (and I did — I played offensive guard, despite my shortness, lol).
  • I dislocated my right knee at 14 years old, and then subluxed (partial dislocation) the same knee at 15, dislocated it again at 17, and then one more time at 18. Finally, at age 22, I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee to take out loose bodies, and clean out damaged cartilage and tissue. (Glad I did because it feels so much better! Shout out to Great Basin Orthopaedics in Reno, NV for my surgery.).
  • I experienced a grade 2 sprain on my right shoulder labrum when I was 17, during football practice (ended my season…booo).
  • I suffered a grade 2 sprain on my left pectoralis minor when I was 18, while trying to bench press.
  • In December of 2013, at age 21, I severely strained my lower back, possibly herniating a disc in my lumbar spine, most likely between L2 down to L4 (one of those). (Click HERE to learn more about my back and my rehab process here).
  • After my back injury, I did not try heavy lifting for 4 months, then a total of 9 more months after re-aggravating the injury, and participated in mostly body-weight exercises, light weights, circuits, and running, during that time (roughly July 2014 to March 2015).
  • I begin lifting again at 23 (around late March/early April 2015), testing myself slowly and paying big attention to relearning and locking in technique.
  • After my whole experience, obsessive self study, becoming a certified personal trainer, and having clients of my own, I started my own program during August/September 2016, after planning it in late May through July 2016.

That is the basic time-line for me and my lifting career, so I really only consider myself a serious lifter for the last 6 months, despite lifting consistently for almost the last 2 years (after my back injury). In my own opinion, it may be 10 years since I started lifting, but I am only in the beginning intermediate stage at best as a lifter (I measure lifter based on strength in the lifts, and by knowledge and technique practiced).

That said, I used myself as a guinea pig for this program I put together, and wanted to offer this program to everyone starting to lift, or at the beginning stages of their intermediate stage, in their lifting career.

My program I’m sharing with you is completely free, and a guide to get you started to making more strength and muscle gains.

DOWNLOAD MY FREE STRENGTH and MUSCLE BUILDING PROGRAM BY CLICKING this link: Lean Muscle Building.

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What’s in the Program?

In the program, you’ll find basic principles about building muscle and strength, along with how to warm-up, recover, maintain your body, and what to generally eat to get stronger. I also give you freedom in the program to incorporate varying levels of weights used, and variations to the main lifts, like front or pause squats, stiff-legged or Romanian deadlifts, and pendlay barbell rows.

I wanted my program to be flexible, as to factor in for individual concerns, levels of strength and technique, and add excitement to your training, in which you can build the most muscle and strength while using it. 

Again, my program is free because I want it to be that way, since I care about helping everyone out there avoid my mistakes, and understand basic knowledge that will help you in the early to mid early stages of your lifting career.

Extra: Strength Outline Progression

In addition to the free strength and muscle program giveaway, I want to share what I saw strongman athlete BRIAN ALSRUHE explain on YouTube in his most recent video.

(Click HERE to watch his programming method, and please subscribe to his channel because he has some of the best content out there for strength, conditioning, programming, and building strength).

In his video, Brian explains how to structure your basic programming progress for the year.

If you do not have time to watch the video (almost 25 minutes, but worth the watch), I encourage you to watch it later, but for the time being I’ve broken it down using MY PERSONAL NUMBERS, and added a few extra elements in the table below.

2017 Program Progression
Lift Current/Goal Max (in lbs.) Avg. Q max ↑ in weight Q1

(Jan-Mar)

Q2

(Apr-Jun)

Q3

(Jul-Sep)

Q4

(Oct-Dec)

1.    Squat 355/405 13 368 381 394 405
2.    Deadlift 445/500 14 459 473 487 500
3.    Bench       Press 275/315 10 285 295 305 315
4.    Overhead Press 185/225 10 195 205 215 225
Big 3 Total (current/goal): 1075/1220
Big 4 Total (current/goal): 1260/1445
Current body weight/body fat %: 188lbs/13.5%
Goal body weight/body fat %: 190-195lbs/12.0-12.5%

The table you see above is my current strength goal outline for 2017. Everything you see in there is what I’m lifting right now, and what I plan to hit throughout the year broken up by quarter (each quarter is 3 months and that is why there are 4).

With these goals, I also have other goals, like achieving a specific body weight and body fat percentage. For me, that is important, so that is why I have it there (I encourage you to do so also). I value conditioning and athletic movements, in addition to lifting heavy like a powerlifter, so that may impact my strength and goal numbers, but I think if I do it right, I will be fine.

The Lean Muscle Building program I put together has these athletic and conditioning elements integrated into the program, so it is not like it is something entirely new (although I do plan on adding some extra conditioning elements to most workouts, and I encourage you to add any extra work that you need the most help with, and what is most valuable to you).

I must also note from Brian’s video, he explains depending on the stage of your development, as in beginner to advanced lifter stages, you will have different strength goals and rates of progress. For instance, if you are a beginner you will typically have a faster rate of increase. In contrast, if you’re an intermediate to advanced lifter then you’re rate of progress will be in smaller increments and less overall, since you most likely have bigger numbers.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, I will note that all the things you do outside of training, such as getting good nutrition, rest, having proper recovery, and all that good stuff is essential to your rate of progress.

If you fail outside the gym you will fail in the gym. Period.

Ultimately, the level of consistent work and dedication you put into it will be the deciding factor on your rate of progress.

What will help you is a program to guide you, and that is why I made this program for you: to serve as a guide to get stronger and build lean muscle.

I encourage you to EMAIL me any questions at builtfromstrength@gmail.com for any questions about the Lean Muscle Building program, or any question you may have about getting stronger, adding muscle, losing weight, or anything else of that nature.

(Visit my contact page HERE and my about page HERE).

AGAIN, IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY, PLEASE CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD THE PROGRAM.

As always, thanks again for stopping by and reading, and if not a subscriber, please subscribe.

Until next time, be strong and be you!

Thoughts on Progress and Making Gains: Intensity

Image result for stan efferding intensity

Listen.

If you’re in the gym what’s your goal?

PROGRESS.

It’s that simple.

Of course, we have specific goals we’re trying to attain, like losing weight or gaining muscle, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to progress in some way.

Now, I can’t say for you, but I want to make more gains.  I’m not just talking muscle wise, but increasing my strength (that’s number 1 for me), controlling my body better, and being in better condition.

Doable?

Absolutely.

Easy?

No.

So, what do we need if we want any progress and gains to happen, whether building muscle, strength, power, endurance, flexibility, aesthetics, etc?

First, we have to be committed to the process.

The moment you realize that you’ll be in a much better place. But, if you’re reading this then I’m assuming you’re already committed to getting stronger and into better shape, so what else do we need?

Intensity.

We need intensity because it’s the force that gives us the ability to change our bodies for the better.

Try doing a heavy squat or deadlift without intensity…not gonna happen.

Not only will it not happen there’s a good chance that you’ll snap yo shit up too.

Not good.

So, how do we be intense?

There are many answers, but I think you got to want it. You got to want to lift heavier, run faster, jump higher, get a bigger booty, or whatever else you’re trying to accomplish.

If you want it then odds are you’ll be more intense and work hard for it.

Why?

Because it will matter to you. You’ll start to understand that to get to “X” I have to do A, B, and C first, like doing things outside the gym to be successful in the gym (click HERE to know what I’m talking about).

This will lead to more intensity in the gym because you’re connected with the work you’re doing to achieve your goal (strength, power, aesthetics, functionality, etc.) by not wanting the effort you put in to go to waste.

So, what exactly is intensity:

Doing something with the highest force you’re capable of doing.

Simple as that.

Now, don’t get it twisted. Just because you or I have intensity doesn’t mean we’ll progress in a linear fashion. Rarely is progression strictly linear. However, if you’re lacking intensity during your workouts you’re selling yourself short of your full potential, and not working hard enough. Intensity gives us passion, and that extra effort we need to progress further, with more efficiency.

You may have the best program in the world tailored to your every need, but if you don’t show up and train with intensity, and just work really freaking hard, then you’ll leave behind gains and progress that were there waiting for you.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but rarely is intensity consistently practiced.

Do you have to be so intense that you become so serious that you become an asshole about it, and that gym douche bag who grunts and yells with every rep, and purposefully puffs his chest out with arms held wide (a.k.a. imaginary lat syndrome).

NO.

In fact, I encourage you to have fun, smile, and laugh often through your workout (check out this article about smiling more in the gym by clicking HERE).

With that said, when it’s time to step-up to the plate, or rather the barbell, bench, rack, or pull-up bar, you better give it your best intense effort.

Don’t be shy or timid about it. Just do it.

Recently, for example, I did just that — I was timid. I tried a heavy single in the squat and approached it with apprehension. I’m ashamed of it, but I won’t lie. I let the negative insurgency get the best of me by psyching myself out. I was out of my flow and lacked intensity.

But, you know what? I came back for a second time and I squatted 355 to full depth like it was nothing…easy.

The first time I squatted the barbell I was weak with no intensity, and almost failed (in my mind I did).

Second time, however, I let myself go, and brought out the intensity I needed to do it right and smashed it.

I’m on my way to 405, which is a big deal to me, so why am I holding back?

There’s no reason to, so that’s why showing up with intensity matters because that’s how we break plateaus and hit PRs.

Remember, if you fail you can always try again.

But, what fails your progress is not giving the intense effort to do whatever we’re working on in the gym with unrelenting fervor, and passion to get better in some way — stronger, faster, bigger, leaner, discovering character, or whatever it may be — no matter how small the improvement.

(Click HERE to get what I’m saying).

That’s why we need to be intense when we train. It will look different person to person, but just be intense in your own way, and you’ll be on your way to making more gains than you thought you could.

If you don’t believe just look at the dude pictured for this article. It’s none other than Stan “The White Rhino” Efferding (a.k.a. the strongest bodybuilder in the world). He’s a freak of nature with stupid strength, and one of the leading authorities and people in the fitness industry to get strong and build muscle.

He’ll tell you first hand that the programming doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. You have to want it and just train freaking hard (just listen to his rant about it HERE — worth the 15 minutes).

And, try not to be intimidated by Stan, or someone like him, either.

The point is that you can have your own remarkable results (like Stan), in some way, if you just train with some fire in you.

Whatever makes you have that remember it, and you’ll start to notice your progress accelerate, not to mention you’ll feel great at the same time. Once that happens, you’ll begin to understand that intensity matters, and start to do the little things (getting better sleep, eating better foods, etc.) that help you be more consistent.

Consistency leads to success. Throw in intensity, and you’ve got a winning combination to smash your goals.

It’s a struggle, but a struggle worth doing.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment down below to share your thoughts.

Until next time, be strong and be you!

(Photo Credit)